Friday, May 30, 2008

"Life is queer with its twists and turns..."

i remember this line now from an old poem, Don't Quit, that Mama used to post around our "home" (the dinghy mezzanine floor above our store in the public market) while we were growing up (she liked to post a lot of quotes and poems on living life the best and noblest and highest way, despite our miserable physical surroundings...), as i am struck now by how queerly indeed my life has twisted and turned, especially in the past year.

first, i decided to take an unpaid year's leave off from university work, just to rest, relax, and follow my bliss. people thought i had lots of moolah stashed for the full 12 months ahead; they thought i was kidding when i said i was living in God's Grace month to month (i was)!

in June, a love which i thought to be The Love of My Life turned sour, but i consciously resolved not to take it like a victim and to keep my faith and hope for True Love still pure and unsullied instead... and then i met B on July 1, on his birthday!!! : )

then there was the awarding ceremony for my second national book award at the Cultural Center of the Philippines last July, and the fun radio interview out of town, which my kids enjoyed as much as i did (the radio station treated us like superstars, with our own coaster to fetch and bring us back to the hotel and wherever else we wanted to go after the interview).

after that was a children's literature conference i attended where i expected to just be a participant but ended up being like a "grand finale" speaker which got the audience very hyped up and involved.

then the U.S. visa interview with my sis, where the visa officer just asked us questions, didn't even look at the rest of the documents we brought, and then granted us 10-year multiple entry visas each!

then the fun, special bonding time with Mama in the States last Sept-Oct, where we got to relive our teenage years again and fill in the "missing link" in our lives (Mama left us when we were teenagers). we didn't know it was to be our last time with her together, but i think now that she knew all along.

then i come back here in October to have my books launched at The Negros Museum, along with the museum's Storytelling Program, in the midst of the Masskara Festival.

in December to February, both Papa and Mama got seriously sick, having to go in and out of the hospital several times, until they couldn't leave the hospital anymore. Papa was last admitted on Jan. 16, while Mama on Jan. 29. Papa died on feb. 20, and Mama on march 10.

taking care of both, first here in Bacolod, then there in Atlanta, Georgia, was both special and surreal in itself. it was special because i discovered that one gets to forge and develop a new, adult relationship with one's parents one never had before when they were physically healthy and well. now that the tables are turned and they are dependent on you and you are taking care of them, the masks fall off, and you just relate to each other as full human beings in all your best and worst, and you find that if you just show up for them everyday anyway, just dig in there and continue to care for them the best way you can despite the arguments and the rehashing of unfinished business, the Love and Laughter remain and only grow stronger and unbreakable in the end. i would never have exchanged those last moments with Papa and Mama for all the world. it was the sublimest of benedictions.

and it was also most profoundly healing and special that both Papa and Mama just kept on asking about each other in the end. they were in each other's thoughts, even in their semi-conscious and pained states. how's that for deep Love, huh? : )

my brother, Tope, and my sister, Honey, and i-- we kid each other about our parents being Soulmates after all-- despite their stormy and tempestuous love and lives. but we also quietly know that all jokes contain a deep truth in them; we just joke about them because we could only comfortably take them in joke form; the deep truth both scare and awe us so...


yet, it was surreal, too, living in hospitals and around sick and dying people and the medical staff who also help care for them for three months, and then after that, having to deal with the business of funeral homes and cultural and social norms for the dead. it was twilight-zonish, waking up in the morning and not even able to make plans for noontime, because one never knows what happens next. after they died, it was twilight-zonish still, to find that people get so hung up about certain practices and arrangements (and money, yes, money!) and that they can even be the source of a lot of family and friends' dramatics and melodramatics.

in the midst of it all, i was asked to submit a proposal for an international conference, and found out later in April, that i received a full grant for my paper presentation proposal. so now i have been applying for my Schengen visa to Belgium, as well as preparing my paper for the conference.

in the midst of it all, too, B and i found time to be with each other, just the two of us, and it was a most special, special healing and sweet time.

then, there was the most welcome trip to New Jersey and New York, the bonding with cousins we last saw when we were children, and of course, conquering The Big Apple on our own. it was a most precious, healing gift from Tito Tony and Tita Melvi, more than they will ever know...

coming back home, i decided to beautify my home with part of the inheritance funds i received from Papa's estate. so since April, i have been living in home depots and hardware stores most times of the day. : )

now, i am looking forward to spending more special time with B again when his summer vacation starts, even as i prepare to go back to university teaching, refreshed and renewed in my zeal for the calling.

this afternoon, my publisher's staff communicated with me for a single-parenting talk they plan to do in July, a day before i leave for Belgium, and in which i have been invited to speak and share.

then i come home to find an email from Lifestyle Network who wants me to be a guest in their show! ;O

whew.

***

a friend asked me once how i was, and we both laughed when i said, "i'm mastering the art of winging it!"

but it's true. i am discovering now how life is so strange, all the best-laid intelligent plans can fall apart in a moment. no use stressing over the minutiae of the how-tos.

just focus on what brings you joy, and live more of them each moment each day. the rest, just wing it. ; )

true security is found inside, in your knowing and realization that no matter what happens, you can handle it... not really just because of you alone and the strength of character and life skills you have developed, but because somehow, you are taken care of and provided for, always, by both Seen and Unseen Friends of the heart and soul...

another friend shared with me a joke quote once, and which i find most apt now--

Life is short. Don't make it shorter!

: ) : ) : )
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